Author Explores The Evolution Of Facebook What began as a Harvard-only website is now the social networking tool of almost 500 million people worldwide. David Kirkpatrick examines the site's short history and its long-term potential in The Facebook Effect.
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Author Explores The Evolution Of Facebook

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Author Explores The Evolution Of Facebook

Author Explores The Evolution Of Facebook

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Good morning.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Good to be here.

AMOS: Before we get to the privacy issues, I'd like to talk a bit about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. You had amazing access to him. What's his world view and how does that shape what Facebook is?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, the history of humanity has basically been in villages and small towns. And in that context, people pretty much knew each other's business. It's very interesting to me that a system created by a guy like Mark Zuckerberg, which is all about sort of getting inside the business of your friends, has emerged just at the moment when we're all moving to cities. Because it actually suggests that we can maybe make this transition and retain some of the same dynamic we had in the small town.

AMOS: And the investment firms are saying that Facebook is worth over $10 billion. What exactly...

KIRKPATRICK: More than that, actually. The latest transactions put it in the 25, 26 billion dollar range.

AMOS: It's extraordinary. So what's so valuable?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, in the United States, where about 125 million people use Facebook at least once a month, the average of those Americans, according to Nielsen, is they're spending seven hours a month there. So you have 125 million Americans spending seven hours a month, and then you look at it - it's 500 million worldwide. You know, this is just something that you can't disregard. It's a massive, massive way that people are spending their time.

AMOS: Well, I must say, reading the book, it's very clear that the money part of this almost came as a surprise.

KIRKPATRICK: Now, he does think they'll make money over time. It's just that he doesn't make that his priority. The way he's always looked at it is, let's get ubiquity and once we do, then we'll figure out how to quote-unquote "monetize this thing."

AMOS: Let's talk about some of the bigger ideas that surround this notion of privacy. Zuckerberg talks about transparency - it's the utmost importance, he says. What he is talking about is you can't have two personas: the professional face and your personal face.


AMOS: How realistic is that?

KIRKPATRICK: But it's quite interesting that someone holding that belief has succeeded in building a system that 500 million people use.


AMOS: You do write, though, that 30 percent of employers have rejected applicants because of things they found on Facebook.

KIRKPATRICK: Facebook or other social networks. But, yes. Mm-hmm.

AMOS: So there's a consequence to having one personality.

KIRKPATRICK: Right. Well, I think, frankly, anybody who puts secret data about themselves on Facebook or anyplace on the Internet is naïve, if they think it's not potentially going to get seen by others.

AMOS: You have some remarkable examples, which raises questions about personal responsibility. For example, the new head of British intelligence...

KIRKPATRICK: I love that example.

AMOS: ...after he was named, it turned out that his wife had been posting pictures of his children and details of his address.


AMOS: Prison guards who friend prisoners. In trials, jurors who have posted opinions on Facebook during deliberations.


AMOS: You don't have to post that. Do you think that users have something to learn as well?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, they definitely do. And you probably also noticed that there's a - I quote a legal scholar who wrote a long paper last year in which he - he said he believes a large percentage of what we consider privacy problems with Facebook are what he calls peer-to-peer privacy violations, where our "friends," quote-unquote, are the ones exposing data about ourselves in ways that we don't like.

AMOS: One of the themes of your book is that privacy issues are not new, and they've been quite heated with Facebook users over time. Do you think that this is a way that this community - everybody who's on Facebook - is beginning to determine what exactly privacy is?

KIRKPATRICK: You mean it's sort of a user-generated decision-making process in effect?

AMOS: Indeed.

KIRKPATRICK: So, you know, I think there's another side to it. There's a certain anonymity in obscurity. As the quantity of data about us grows, the fact that any given piece of data about us might be exposed in the world probably becomes less problematic over time. Because similar data is increasingly being exposed about everyone else we know - therefore it's less remarkable. And I think whether or not Facebook continues to grow, I think that's going to be the case. And we almost certainly will be less concerned about privacy more and more as time goes on.

AMOS: Is it possible that it will be governments - and not the U.S. government - that will push more on this privacy issue?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, when you have a genuinely global system like this and all the different value systems that it encounters in being global, I think it's quite amazing, all the challenges it's going to face from government. As I end the book, I say clearly - and I do believe this - there's no way Facebook is going to avoid substantial regulatory pushback in many ways, because of the exposure of data, because of the way that it's trying to become an identity sort of infrastructure, and maintaining even what might be considered a passport for the Internet when that sort of function has always been done by government in the past.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

KIRKPATRICK: Well, thanks so much for having me.

AMOS: For more information on successful social sites - one example, how one man used Facebook to take on Colombia guerillas - go to our Web site,

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